MGF’s Louisa Hufstader writes:
I was born in Brunswick, Maine, where my Dad was based during his Navy service as a Cold War submarine hunter. My young parents rented rooms from a Mrs. Pennell, who observed the Maine tradition of weekly baked beans. This is her recipe, preserved for close to six decades by the family that got its start under Mrs. Pennell’s roof.
Mrs. Pennell’s Friday Night Baked Beans
1 lb. pea, navy or Kenearly Yellow Eye beans
2 tsp. dry mustard
Up to 1 Tbsp. salt, to taste (Mrs. Pennell’s recipe calls for 1 Tbsp., but these days my parents and I frankly quail at that amount of sodium; do as you see fit)
3 medium onions, quartered
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle juice
1/4 lb. salt pork or bacon
Pepper for generous sprinkling
Pick over and wash dried beans.
Cover with 3 cups water and soak for 2-4 hours (for new-crop beans) to overnight (for supermarket beans, which can be several years old).
Drain beans and add 3-4 cups water and all remaining ingredients except salt (adding salt too soon keeps the beans from becoming tender), salt pork or bacon and most of the pepper.
Boil, covered, for about an hour or until the skins of the beans begin to wrinkle.
Heat oven to 250 degrees.
Cut the salt pork almost all the way through every 1/2 inch or so, or cut bacon into chunks.
Place pork or bacon into a 2 quart bean pot and cover with the hot beans and their liquid.
Sprinkle generously with pepper.
Cover bean pot and bake for 6 to 8 hours.
When beans are about 2/3 of the way there, add about 3/4 cup of water or enough to just cover the beans.
Uncover the bean pot for the last 1/2 hour of cooking.